The TRR Biathlon is also known as my favorite race of the year. I run a lot of
good great races but this one is always the winner when it comes to fun and doing a little bit of good in the world.
You know the story, right? I found this race on accident when looking for a kayaking race. And then I did it…and did it again, and again, and again….and will keep doing it.
Team River Runner promotes healing through kayaking. They work with wounded warriors to teach them white water kayaking. If this sounds amazing it is because it is amazing!
Last week the forecast for race day was sounding pretty terrible and I was following the forecast and the river gauges pretty carefully. Luckily TRR decided to wait and make a last minute decision. Many other races cancelled ahead of time. The original rain predictions for the area were 8-10 inches…luckily the first storm brought less rain and Hurricane Joaquin turned away. He knew not to mess with me! I wanted this race to go on.
On Saturday afternoon I got two emails saying the race was still on…one for volunteers and one for racers. I was super excited.
My buddy and I signed up to volunteer in addition to racing. We think this organization is amazing and will do anything we can to help. We count on it being a full day event but totally worth it and it has yet to disappoint.
We woke up early on Sunday and packed the car full of stuff. It was lightly raining when we left our house. We took extra clothes and extra shoes and extra food and tons of stuff just in case. We were assigned to be parking monitors but they didn’t really need us to start that right away so we jumped in and helped moving tables, setting up, and moving kayaks down to the dock. Once we got the kayaks lined up we move over to monitor the parking. Basically it was our job to keep people out unless they needed handicapped parking. We handled that until about 9 when the racing started. Our heat was at 9:30 so we headed off to change into our race clothes and shoes and then headed to the dock.
Doing a biathlon is of course a little different than a running race. We each received 2 bibs….one for running which we pinned on our shirts and one for paddling which we pinned on a PFD (personal flotation device). I opted not to use my race dots even for my running bib because I didn’t want to worry about somehow losing one when putting my PFD on or taking it off. I think they would have been fine but I just didn’t want to take a chance.
TRR supplies the kayaks, paddles, and PFDs so even though we have our own gear we are required to use theirs. This makes it equal for everyone. The paddle I got felt short for me and I hardly ever wear my own PFD (since I mostly do flat water) so wearing one was an adjustment.
The water was a bit choppy and there was wind blowing upstream. When our heat was allowed on the dock, we got in our boats pretty quickly and seal launched off the dock. We headed over to the start line. I should have taken some time to warm up but we mostly floated around and talked to other paddlers. Everyone was drifting upstream (wind or tide, maybe?) and they had to tell us to paddle back to start. It wasn’t long before all the boats were in the water and we were off.
It was long after that that my left arm was burning. Somehow I always hurt my arm paddling too hard at the beginning. I will obviously never learn. I was still paddling hard even though it hurt. After a while to help me focus I started paddling 10 times and then taking a short break. I was counting each stroke to focus on moving forward. I felt like I got to the turn around pretty quickly and was hoping the downstream portion would be easier….unfortunately we had to fight the wind.
Between the wind and my arm feeling dead it was a fight to finish but I made it around the second buoy and turned back to the dock. As I was approaching the dock a volunteer directed me and pulled me and my boat up onto the dock. It was a bumpy ride it but I hopped out the boat as quickly as I could and made my way up the dock.
I stopped at the water table for a couple of sips of water. And then headed to the trail for the run portion. I was slightly confused as to which side of the trail I was supposed to be on and whether or not I needed to cross the timing mat. I asked a volunteer and was directed over the mat to complete the transition and start the run.
I felt super sluggish at the beginning of the run and it was hard to hold my arms up. My legs and lungs felt really good though. I can definitely tell that my endurance training is paying off. Short runs generally feel pretty good. As I was running out I decided to just pace myself and not push too much until after the turnaround. I kept looking for my buddy and finally saw him around 1.25 miles. I asked how long the race was this year…often times it’s longer than 3 miles. He said it was dead on so I knew I was close to the turn around.
There was a water table at the turn around so I actually stopped and grabbed a cup. There were no trashcans along the course so I didn’t want to take the cup with me. I drank a few gulps and got rid of the cup. Even with that stop my second mile was 14 seconds faster than my first mile.
After the break at the turnaround my upper body felt a little bit better. I worked on speeding up the entire way back. When I hit the two mile mark and knew I only had one mile left I really started pushing. My third mile was about a minute faster than my second mile.
As I was approaching the finish I could hear the footsteps of two guys behind me. I just kept speeding up so that they could not pass me.
I was happy with my negative splits and overall very happy with how the race went. We hung out for a while and grabbed some food after we finished racing. We were treated to a fly over.
It was a long day but I’m already looking forward to next years race!